Since January 7, about two weeks after the government shutdown began, Second Harvest began to notice a spike in the requests for food assistance. It started with phone calls and private Facebook messages from families affected by the shutdown. Parents were asking how and where to receive help putting food on the table so their kids wouldn’t suffer.
One TSA worker explained that he had made his last paycheck stretch as far as it could, but like 72% of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, his family of four found themselves in need of food assistance for the first time. One of his children is on the autism spectrum. Any disruption in his routine, therapy visits, diet or home life can be extremely traumatic.
While responding to these inquiries the food bank noticed a 60% spike food requests.
It’s go time.
No stranger to disaster relief, Second Harvest reached out to its feeding partners across all six counties to identify sites to direct federal workers seeking food assistance. The food bank coordinated with officials at Orlando International Airport to address needs during the partial government shutdown.
On January 22, Second Harvest distributed 38,000 pounds of food at an airport employee distribution site. The event benefited 241 employee families in the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“After a month without pay, many of our neighbors are struggling with hunger for the first time in their lives,” said Dave Krepcho, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank. “We’re encouraged to see our community stepping up to help, and we’ll continue to serve those in need through our network of partners across Central Florida.”
Throughout the day, food bank staff and volunteers helped pack bags with nonperishable food items, like potatoes, peanut butter, soups, stews and canned fruits and vegetables. The recipients were grateful for the support, smiling and saying thank you at each table. One TSA worker only took a few items, explaining, “I only want the necessities. There are others who need it more than I do.”
One mother shared her gratitude by saying the event was a blessing to her family. “My three daughters and I, we were fine until this weekend. We just spent the last of our savings.”
In addition to food from the food bank, staff members set up a temporary market for employees to pick up items donated by the community through a food drive at the airport. The table included items like cereal, pasta and beans. Second Harvest staff assisted workers to select food for their families.
“Several fathers were sorting through items and I could tell they weren’t used to grocery shopping,” explained Amanda Sintes, Second Harvest’s Community Health and Nutrition Manager. “They would point to nutrition labels and ask questions to ensure they were taking healthy food for their families, especially their pregnant wives.”
Whether it is due to an illness, car accident, job loss, natural disaster or other mitigating circumstances, like a government shutdown, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and our network of 550 feeding partners stands at the ready to provide hope and hunger relief.
If you or someone you know needs help accessing healthy, nutritious foods during the partial government shutdown, visit www.feedhopenow.org/shutdownrelief to locate emergency food assistance near you.
Want to Help Others?
You can help ensure our neighbors in need have the healthy, nutritious foods they need during the partial government shutdown.